The phrase ‘Mexico’s Riviera Maya’ might spark images to you of bustling Cancun or ultra hip and trendy Tulum, but I’m here to tell you about an incredible hidden gem known as Mayakoba, just 30 miles from Cancun international airport. It comprises four luxury resorts nestled in a unique network of canals lined by mangroves and opening out onto a sublime stretch of white sand beaches.
The three upscale resorts are Fairmont Mayakoba, Andaz Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba and the Banyan Tree, and are in a private gated community
I had the unique opportunity to stay at the Fairmont Mayakoba this past September 2020, and I’m still in awe that such a unique property is present on the Riviera Maya coast and so close to Cancun.
Food and Drink
This was where the Fairmont really stood out. The food here was exceptional, we didn’t have one meal that didn’t blow us away. I have a gluten free diet, but this was never too much trouble. They made me gluten free pancakes in the morning, which was something I hadn’t been able to have in years! A very welcome surprise!
We had booked to go all inclusive which was a great decision, as we didn’t have to worry about the cost of drinks and meals while we were there. However, tips are not included so we had to make a couple of trips to the ATM during our stay, so bear that in mind if you pick this option.
There were two choices of where to have breakfast in the morning, at El Puerto, the restaurant in the main building or beachfront at Brisas, which carries a small surcharge if you choose to have breakfast on the all inclusive plan.
For lunch, we chose to have food on the beach, we gave our orders to the beach staff and they were happy to take care of it and bring it out to us when it was ready. Nothing beats fresh tacos on the beach in Mexico! In addition ,the drinks we had were delicious. There wasn’t always a cocktail menu available due to COVID restrictions but the bartenders were incredibly talented and after just discovering what liquor we liked and what flavour profile we were after they curated some of the most fantastic cocktails I’ve ever tasted.
For dinner, we chose to try both Brisas which overlooks the beach and El Puerto in the main building. Both dinners were exceptional and the service was next to none. Nothing was too much effort. I believe that there may be more restaurants open now that COVID protocols have become more refined.
Accommodation / rooms and suites
We were booked in a Signature Casita room which had a beautiful walk out deck that perched over the canals. It was the perfect spot to sit and sip your coffee in the morning while watching the wildlife in and around the mangroves. The in suite facilities were fantastic, we had a mini bar, coffee machine and a gorgeous luxurious bathroom with a mini outdoor side garden that overlooked the bath. We were celebrating our honeymoon and the front desk had so kindly organized a gluten free cake to be delivered to our suite on the first night. It’s these small details that really make the difference!
On the walk to the beach each morning we were lusting after some of the most luxurious rooms, there were rooms above us that had mini rooftop private plunge pools, and the beachfront villas were to die for! With private infinity pools that overlooked the beach, it really didn’t get much better than that.
The Fairmont resort really is very expansive, if you have the time it’s worth having a wander around the grounds, you would never think such a place existed so close to Cancun! There are bicycles for you to use whenever you want, you just pick one up from the bike gates near the front and return it when you’re done. If that feels like too much activity on your vacation, there are regular shuttles that will courier you around the property. I never had to wait more than five minutes for one, even at 5am in the morning on the day of our departure!
There are two large pools at the Fairmont; because we visited right after they reopened for COVID, only one of the pools was open but it was still fantastic. Just a few steps from the bar or beach and a stone’s throw from the shuttle pick up.
The beach was absolutely gorgeous! Despite the presence of sargassum along the Riviera Maya, the staff made it their goal to remove all signs of the seawood multiple times a day. There is food and drinks service on the beach and the staff will help you get settled when you meander down in the morning, bring your towels and take any food or drink orders you may have.
The best thing we did here though was the tour of the canals. It’s complimentary for guests, you just have to book it beforehand with the front desk. We were the only two guests on the boat tour and it really was awe-inspiring. Our tour took us through all the narrow canals, meandering through the mangrove trees. My husband is very interested in aquaculture and fish, so he was thrilled to learn about all the sustainable efforts the resorts were making to restore the wildlife throughout the community.
If you get the opportunity to stay here, I highly recommend that you do! It really is in a league of its own. Keep an eye out on Travelzoo as I have frequently seen deals for the Fairmont pop up from time to time. If you are a foodie and like a few cocktails I would suggest booking the all inclusive, but bring some cash for tips.
I used a company called USA Transfers for our transportation to and from the resort. I couldn’t recommend them enough, they were professional, timely and with a very fair price, that was half that of what the resort was offering. We were coming from Tulum too, so having a transfer company that offered hotel to hotel service was a definite plus. They also have an app you can download on your phone, so you can see upcoming bookings, track your driver on a map and call the customer service through the app for free.
There is an additional resort fee that you will have to pay when booking the Fairmont Mayakoba, and it’s not always super transparent during the booking process; the fee is $25 plus tax per person per night, which can really add up if you are staying a while. I am not a very big fan of the trend that hotels are taking in regard to additional resort fees, however there are a few more benefits that the Fairmont’s resort fee includes, which are worth taking advantage of if you are having to pay for this addition. The resort fee includes a $20 credit to Hix Bar, $25 credit towards sports activities, such as yoga and fitness classes, $40 credit towards spa credits, guided catamaran tours, bird watching tours, use of sports equipment on the beach (kayaks, SUP, snorkels, boogie boards, etc) and transportation to the other Mayakoba resorts, which you can sample the other fine restaurants.